Plagued by nasty itching and vaginal discharge? It could be thrush - here's how to deal with it.
What is it?
An infection caused by excessive growth of a yeast called candida albicans or monilia. Candida is naturally present in the human body and does not normally cause any problems. In certain conditions, it starts to reproduce rapidly and causes thrush.
What is an attack like?
- There is a thick white lumpy vaginal discharge.
- The vagina and vulva become red and sore, and there is usually intense itching.
What makes attacks of thrush likely?
- Warmth and moisture - tights, nylon underwear, and tight jeans
- High sugar levels - diabetics, increased sugar or alcohol intake
- Hormone changes - pregnancy and the contraceptive pill
- Antibiotics - these kill the friendly bacteria that stop the yeast growing
- Damaged skin - vaginal deodorants, disinfectants, perfumed soap, rough sex
- General poor health - tiredness, anaemia, and stress
- Wiping yourself from 'back to front' after going to the toilet - yeasts and bacteria in the bowel can get wiped onto the vulva
How do you get rid of it?
- If you aren't absolutely sure it's thrush, go see your doctor to make sure it isn't an STI.
- The standard treatment for thrush is pessaries (tablets that are placed high up inside the vagina with an applicator) and soothing cream that kills the yeast.
- If you are using pessaries and cream, remember to wear a panty liner; they can be a bit messy.
- The commonest brands are called Canesten and Nystan, and are available on prescription and over the counter.
- Male partners should be treated with the cream to make sure they are not carrying the yeast on their penis.
- Many women say that putting natural live yoghurt on the area is very soothing. The bacteria naturally keep the yeast under control.
- Avoiding soap and detergents helps the skin of the vulva to heal.
What if it keeps coming back?
- Talk to your GP about it; you might need a quick check-up or some tests.
- You can try a longer course of pessaries and cream; always remember to finish the course.
- There is one-dose tablet you can take by mouth that many women find very effective.
- Avoid everything that makes an attack of thrush more likely (see the list above)
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